Empowering Design Practices

Empowering Design Practices: historic places of worship as catalysts for connecting communities


Empowering design practices is a five-year AHRC-funded research project that aims to explore how community-led design can help empower those who look after historic places of worship to create more open, vibrant and sustainable places that respect and enhance their heritage.


The project identifies, works with, and captures a plethora of case studies of past and present community-led design activities. The interdisciplinary team adapt, create, and trial methods for working with these communities and their representatives. Using these data, artefacts, and processes, we will guide the project team towards created effective designs for open courses and resources. Of particular note is the innovative potential to produce new forms of community-level learning experiences. These could support community members to learn together, and / or to learn the skills required for sustainable, inclusive, and effective community activities.

The project is led by The Open University (OU), but is highly collaborative in nature. Through partnership with Historic England, the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance, Heritage Lottery Fund, The Glass-House Community Led Design, and Wright and Wright Architects, the findings and outputs are shaped to be relevant to practice.

The role of IET

The role of IET in this project is to guide the education strand of work, in order to build national capacity for community-led design practice beyond those directly engaged in project activities. This will be achieved by developing open educational resources and training for design students, communities, as well as the professionals and support bodies who work with them.

Research programmes


  • Historic England
  • Historic Religious Buildings Alliance
  • Heritage Lottery Fund
  • The Glass-House Community Led Design
  • Wright and Wright Architects